‘Referee Whistle’ Politics

“Dog whistle.” You’ve heard the term. It refers to a benign political viewpoint meant to evoke a more sinister thought in the listener. So, in the eyes of Democrats and the media, “tough on crime” and “law and order” become code words for “let’s nuke the inner cities.”

But there is another, more common political phenomenon. It’s a favorite tactic of the Left. I call it the “referee’s whistle.” It’s the attempt to stop all debate when one side feels cornered. In other words, the referee whistles the play dead.

Dog-whistle politics was practiced long ago by Southern Democrats, who used anodyne terms like “states’ rights” to candy-coat their racist views. It took decades of work by civil rights leaders, Northern liberals and Republicans to overcome Jim Crow segregation.

Later, the “dog whistle” label would be applied to any conservative policy that liberals opposed. Ronald Reagan was criticized for his views on welfare. But so was Bill Clinton. He “launched racially coded attacks against welfare and ‘super predators,’” wrote CNN commentator Sally Kohn.

The referee’s whistle is more pernicious. It disqualifies a political stance by labeling it untruthful, illegal or dangerous. You should not even argue for it. “Tweet!” Flag on the play.

Take the 2022 midterm elections. After the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision returned abortion policy to the states, liberals predicted a wave of pro-choice support for Democrats. Instead, the campaign has largely turned on crime and inflation.

“Tweet!” This is unacceptable to the Left. “I’ve noticed . . . this gaslighting of women voters, this message that says, oh, you don’t really care about your right to control your own bodies, dears, it’s the economy, stupid,” said CNN’s Joy Reid.

Get that? If you believe women worry about inflation, you’re not only wrong, you’re a gaslighting liar, even if you quote a Democratic hero like James Carville.

Or look at liberals’ attempts to explain Florida. Why is such a diverse state about to deliver a Republican triumph this November? Obviously, it has nothing to do with voters’ rational choice. No, it’s a classic case of Stockholm Syndrome.

“That proximity to whiteness is a real thing,” tweeted Jemele Hill. “Also reminds me of an adage I heard a long time ago about how the oppressed begin to take on the traits of the oppressor.”

Apparently, Sunshine State Hispanics are greedy for that “white privilege.” And so they’re willing to trade their integrity for scraps from Governor Ron DeSantis’ table. Hill practically labels them “Tío Tomas.”

Last week, a Senate race debate in Pennsylvania showed Democrat John Fetterman struggling to speak following a debilitating stroke in May. But if this caused you to rethink your support for Fetterman, think again, because you just violated the law.

“Assuming that someone should not be able to have a job because they need an accommodation, that’s not how it works,” said disability advocate and political consultant Sarah Blahovec. “That’s not how it works under the [Americans with Disabilities Act] as well, because the ADA certainly applies to elected positions.”

“Tweet!” You are out of order, Pennsylvania voter.

At least you weren’t called a domestic terrorist. Last summer, parents across the country attended school board meetings to challenge COVID policies and critical race theory. The liberal National School Boards Association sought to put a stop to it. They called on Joe Biden to “deal with the growing number of threats of violence and acts of intimidation.” From whom? Parents.

They were practicing “a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes,” wrote the NSBA. So know your place, mom and dad, unless you want to do serious time.

Ironically, the Left wants nothing to do with stopping actual crime waves. They continue to push for lighter sentences, an end to bail, and the release of convicted felons.

In Philadelphia, there were 562 homicides in 2021, an all-time record. This year’s murder total is trending even higher. Gun robberies are up 60 percent, while commercial burglaries have risen 50 percent.

But the controversial district attorney, Larry Krasner, blames Republicans. “What we see here is the same old playbook, which is about coded and racist messaging,” he said. “Part of the Republican playbook, as you well know, is to point a finger at large diverse cities, and say large diverse cities are lawless.”

Krasner repeated the word “diverse” multiple times in his speech. Talk about a dog whistle! Don’t examine my soft-on-crime policies, he implied, blame diversity instead. It’s especially disgusting knowing that his actions have harmed diverse communities the most.

On October 26, a resolution was introduced in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives to impeach Krasner for “endanger[ing] the health, welfare and safety” of Philadelphians. A state Senate letter in January also called for impeachment.

Did Democrats respond by vowing to protect the people? No. They circled the wagons around Krasner and whistled the play dead.

“The ultimate effort in the movement of voter suppression is to go into a community and nullify the voters’ decisions that they have made,” said State Senator Vincent Hughes of Philadelphia. “People vote, we don’t like it, we impeach the person that you voted for.”

Voter suppression. Nullification. Suddenly, Democrats are more troubled by impeachment than by their beleaguered constituents.

But that’s how the referee’s whistle works. Oppose our policies? You are disqualified from debate. You’re the one who is unethical, unlawful, a racist, a fascist. Game over.

Only a strong message sent on November 8—that people’s well-being and lives matter more than politicians’ whims and lies—can stop it from succeeding.

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About John Herr

John K. Herr is a writer who served in the White House under President George H.W. Bush and President George W. Bush. He has written speeches and jokes for numerous governors and cabinet secretaries, including two appointed by President Trump. He lives in Pennsylvania.

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